For several months now, some dear friends of mine (and Emily’s) have opened their house to me on Monday or Tuesday nights. We eat dinner, watch television or play games, and just talk about whatever is on our minds. I’ve tried really hard lately to be “on my best behavior” when I spend time with them, because I don’t want them to worry about me or, even worse, decide that our weekly gatherings are too much to handle because of my intense emotions.
But last night when one of them asked, “How are you doing?” I just fell apart.
We sat and talked for a long time, both about my current mental state and various events over the past several years. At one point during all of this, one of my friends asks me, “What would Emily say to you if she were here right now?” Although I didn’t have an answer to that, my friend did.
“I think she’d tell you to live. Not just breathe, but really, truly live.”
As I drove home, I kept thinking about all the things my friends had said. However, that one line kept popping up in my brain over and over again.
“The Fact That You’re Alive Is A Miracle”
In the musical Hamilton, Eliza sings to Alexander, “The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.” It’s an incredibly relatable line (and really all of the song is to some extent), especially when you know my entire backstory.
Very few people know the full extent of how long I’ve lived with mental illness, but Emily did. As I’ve said before, she was one of the few people I felt like I could truly trust and confide in. I told her more about my life, and my past, than I’ve told any friends or family.
It’s funny, because it’s a miracle we even met, let alone became such an important person in each other’s lives. And yet, as much as I refuse to believe that “everything happens for a reason,” it happened nonetheless.
For reference, I’ve lived the majority of my life on this sort of seesaw, and every small event I experienced would send me down one way or the other. I was just six years old when I first experienced what I can now label as “suicidal ideation.” I remember exactly where I was: We were on the playground for recess, and I had climbed to the top of this piece of equipment that was a log cabin. As I stood there, probably six to ten feet in the air (it seemed high to an elementary school kid), I thought to myself, “What if you fell from the roof and it killed you? That might be kind of nice.”
In middle school, I asked one of my friends if she’d ever felt like she wanted to die. My freshman year in high school, I stockpiled a week’s worth of my antidepressants and a handful of ibuprofen and took them on the bus ride to school. There were nights when I was in college that I’d get off work and just drive around town, wondering if I could find a way to wreck my car in a way that would look like an accident. The list goes on and on.
And yet, despite my own best efforts, I lived all the way through 2018, when I met Emily.
“That Would Be Enough”
There were lots of reasons why I fought suicidal ideation over the years. Part of it was low self-esteem, some of it was related to sexual assault, and part of it was just my escape hatch from the pain I felt inside of every part of my body.
And yet, somehow, those thoughts and desires started fading from my life gradually until they were almost completely gone between the years of 2018 and 2022. I’m not naive enough to believe that Emily was the sole reason for this because I was also working my ass off in therapy and going through more life changes than I can even count. But, I do think she was at least one factor.
Before Emily, I never felt like anything I did was ever good enough. I saw myself as a failure in nearly every aspect of my life. If you asked Emily, though, she’d describe me in a completely different way.
She frequently told me that I was “more than enough.” She listened to what I called my “crazy thoughts,” and never once judged me for them. She told me over and over again how much she loved me, how much she loved being with me, how appreciative she was that I loved her.
No matter what happened, she said she still wanted to spend her life with me. Why? I’ll never know. But, somehow, her words and her love were enough for me. They melted away the nightmares and the demons of my past. They kept me alive.
Her chapter in my life was the part where I decided to stay. And, for the first time ever, I felt hope where there was once fear. Seeing myself through her eyes was enough for me. For the first time in my entire life, I had love and belonging. I felt safe. I felt strong. I felt… Alive.
I’m Still Alive, But She’s Not
If you’ve never watched the love of your life die right before your eyes, let me tell you, it’s the most excruciatingly painful thing to witness. I don’t know how anyone could see it and not feel responsible. Then, on top of the blame, there’s the survivor’s guilt, the second guessing, and complete lack of understanding.
Honestly, as I write all of that out, I’m not at all shocked by the fact that my suicidal thoughts have returned.
Yet, as my friend pointed out tonight (and I mentioned before in another post), Emily was a prime example of what it looks like to fight for your life.
No matter what obstacles she faced, that girl always chose to fight. Her time on the transplant waiting list is the most obvious example, but it’s far from the only time Emily fought. I know enough of her story to know she took on addiction, anorexia, OCD, a whole slew of physical health issues, and more all so she could continue to pursue her dreams.
I know that, because of Emily, I should want to fight. But I’ve been fighting for three decades, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: it doesn’t get easier. For a brief window, I thought I’d found the spark that made life worth living, but she’s gone. I don’t know much, but I know this pain, this guilt, and this blame will likely never disappear.
For now, though, I’m still alive. I’m barely breathing, but I’m alive. And for now, that’s going to have to be enough because I don’t have much more to give.
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